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Please note that tables of up to four people will be reserved for two hours and tables of five or more will be reserved for two and a half hours.
We take five minutes with Australia’s ultimate southern food chef, Morgan McGlone – the man behind Belles Hot Chicken, which has been serving super-hot fried chicken and beautiful natural wine to lucky Aussies since 2014. He’s been hanging out in the Barbecoa kitchen sharing some tips with our chefs, while picking up some new tricks of his own in the process.
I’ve been here for the last four days, working with the guys in the kitchen at Barbecoa, just checking out what they do! This is my second visit. I love coming here. I’d been working for three years in the southern states, in Charleston and Nashville, doing some really cool stuff with live fire and meat-cooker barbecues when I met Jamie. He asked me over to come and see what you guys do and share some ideas.
I wanted to open a place that served amazing fried chicken, with organic natural wines and really good draft beer, every day. With a few super-cool, super-fresh sides thrown in. We opened in August 2014 and became a bit of a cult destination. We’ve done some cool collaborations with other projects since then, opened a few more restaurants and laid on some good dinners and experiences. But we’ve always stuck to our core values: hot chicken, natural wine.
I was head chef at Husk, in Charleston, which is Sean Brock’s incredible restaurant all about southern food. We used to do a ‘Five fat skillet-fried chicken’ which you could only order by appointment. It was chicken fried in ham fat, pork lard, clarified butter, canola oil and chicken skins. It is honestly the best fried chicken I have ever had. We brined the chicken in sweet tea, dredged it in flour and buttermilk and then rendered the fats and fried the chicken in a skillet over medium heat for 13-14 minutes with the lid on. Then you flip it, take it out and season it. Then tip out some of the oil, add flour and make a gravy. Serve with a honey biscuit, which is like a scone. It’s a new level of fried chicken. And so delicious. That was when I realised fried chicken makes people really happy.
Belles is from the idea of a ‘southern belle’ – I love the fact that fried chicken is kind of feminine in the states. It’s about the southern table; sitting together and the matriarch feeding you. I always wanted to make the link with the southern belle, then the first site I took over in Melbourne happened to be called Belles Diner! When I was signing the deal I asked what it was called and was like, ‘this is meant to be’!
Fresh oil. I’m really, really particular about it. I get really upset if I see that someone hasn’t changed the oil in over an hour in one of the restaurants. We have specialised timers to remind the chefs to do it. It makes all the difference! I want people to say ours is the best fried chicken they’ve ever had. And I want them to come again and again, and have the same experience every time.
I’d love to see the Belles spread through Asia – that could be really cool. I love travelling. I used to travel a lot – I was a model scout and lived between Paris, Milan and London for three years. Today, my wife and I travel where we want to eat and go to places we haven’t discovered before. We’re off to Korea soon, and we love Hong Kong and Japan. In my ideal world I’d live in Copenhagen in the summer and Japan in the winter! I’m looking forward to coming back to London at some point soon though and seeing what new tricks the Barbecoa guys are up to!
You’ll see Morgan’s global inspiration running through our lunch menus all winter long – from fermented mushrooms and forgotten cabbage to cheesy grits and kimchi. Or, if you want a taste of Belles Hot Chicken without taking a trip down under, we’re using Morgan’s hot sauce recipe, herb rub and method to make our wings. Great in the bar with a glass of wine or a cold one – just ask one of our sommeliers for the perfect pairing!